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Providence Rhode Island
1 West Exchange Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02903
Voice: 401-274-1636

The land upon which Roger Williams planted his town of Providence was the tribal domain of the Narragansett Indians. Their generous deeds to the early English colonists entitle them to share with Williams and his associates the honor of founding this important settlement.

For its first century Providence was significant much more for the principles upon which it was established than for its political or economic influence. Roger Williams made Providence a haven for persecuted religious dissenters. His town became the "lively experiment" in religious liberty and church-state separation. This was and is its major claim to fame.

During its first forty years the town was exclusively a fishing and farming village, laid out along one winding dirt road which meandered along the eastern shore of the Providence River and the old Cove. Called "the Towne Street," this thoroughfare was the main artery of Providence for the duration of the colonial period and beyond.

During the Revolutionary War American troops were quartered in Providence en route to various campaigns, though perhaps a thousand were permanently stationed here as a protective force. French troops moved in and out of Providence from July 1780 to May 1782, and it was from this point, in June 1781, that Rochambeau's army began its fateful march southward to Yorktown.

Providence's four major areas of manufacturing endeavor--base metals and machinery, cotton textiles, woolen textiles, and jewelry and silverware--were established by 1830, and for the next century they dominated the city's economy. They made Providence the industrial leader of the nation's most industrialized state. Providence owed this primacy to its superior financial resources and banking facilities, its position as the hub of southeastern New England's transportation network, and to its skilled work force and enterprising business leaders.

Providence finished the nineteenth century with a rush. Having experienced its Golden Age, the city looked to the future with undiminished vigor and optimism. Its captains of industry and their legions of immigrant workers had made it an industrial giant and a culturally diverse mosaic of momentum would be Providence's great challenge of the new century.



Information provided by the City of Providence
Photos taken by Richard Benjamin, Gene Dwiggins


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